Increasing Understanding of Arabic Language and Culture

Abdul (Al) Wohabe '59

Black and White photo of man in suit and tie from chest up
Abdul "Al" Wohabe '59

Abdul (Al) Wohabe '59 absolutely loved Williams College​​.  Raised in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, he surprisingly found his way to Williamstown in 1955 from Riyadh thanks to one of his teachers at the Aramco School who was a Williams alum. 

The coldness of the Berkshire winters didn't deter him. He gained lifelong friends, developed close relationships with faculty members like Fred Greene and John Chandler among others, studied political science and played soccer.  He returned faithfully at least once every five years for reunions eventually with his sons David and Omar and daughter Miriam in tow. 

Al had a successful career practicing law in New York City; he eventually was in a position to give back to the college he loved and also to think about expanding Williams’ reach.  He worked with Director of Admissions Phil Smith '55 to help generate interest in Williams from the Middle East. Recognizing the importance of the region, in the late 1980s, Al donated a seed gift to help fund a program in Middle East studies. While that program did not take hold right away, the initial seed grew into a substantial gift over the years. 

Al passed away in 2017 and in 2020, David '82, Omar '85 and Miriam (Cornell ’86) used that seed money plus additional gifts to create the Abdul W. Wohabe 1959 Arabic Studies Fund to support and promote the study of the Arabic language and Arabic culture. Beginning in 2021, the fund will support undergraduate students’ travel and study in Arabic-speaking countries.

Al's family, in consultation with the college, realized that giving current students the resources to travel to and study in Arabic countries would have the greatest impact and would honor Al’s early vision and pay tribute to his journey to Williams.  As David says, "His travel to Williams really changed his life, his experience of the world, and his perspective. We would hope that this opportunity could be similarly life-changing for Williams students today and tomorrow."  

It is the family’s hope that others may share this vision and be inspired to contribute to the Fund, so that it may expand the opportunities that can be provided.  Students interested in the Abdul W. Wohabe 1959 Arabic Studies Fund can visit 

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